Bertrand Piccard: Balloonist extraordinaire, Solar Impulse pilot, credits self-hypnosis

Self-hypnosis receives little mention in the popular press—its better known and more provocative brother hypnosis gets much more media attention. But once in a while a prominent individual comes along and speaks out about the benefits of self-hypnosis.  This is a rare occurrence and deserves much attention, especially when the person advocating self-hypnosis is the world renowned balloonist Bertrand Piccard, who is preparing to make a transcontinental flight across the United States in the solar-powered Solar Impulse in 2013.  He intends to follow that up with a flight around the world in 2015—all in an aircraft that uses no fossil fuels.

Dr. Piccard speaks with authority about self-hypnosis. He is a medical doctor, specialist in psychiatry and psychotherapy for adults and children. He trained in hypnosis techniques in Europe and the USA, and is also a lecturer and supervisor for the Swiss Medical Hypnosis Society. He recently gave a keynote speech at the 19th International Hypnosis Congress of the International Hypnosis Society entitled “Hypnosis: A way to treat or a way to live?”

It was Piccard's psychiatry background and reputation as a specialist in hypnosis which brought him into ballooning in 1992. Belgian balloonist Wim Verstraeten suggested to Piccard that he become his co-pilot for the Chrysler Challenge, the first trans-Atlantic race for hot air balloons. Verstraeten thought hypnosis might help them to endure the rigors of the 5000 kilometer trip and give them a strong advantage over the other competitors. Piccard accepted and the pair won the race.

In his 1999 flight around the world Piccard reportedly used self-hypnosis to overcome stress and to sleep better. At one point when he was feeling especially discouraged he relied upon a medical colleague to use hypnosis via satellite telephone to lighten his spirits. Piccard went on to complete that flight. His balloon capsule is on display in the grand entrance hall of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington.

During the long duration Solar Impulse flights Piccard plans to use self-hypnosis again to overcome stress, to sleep better and to remain alert.

In an interview on the television show 60 Minutes interviewer Bob Simon seems to be taken by surprise when Piccard openly admits that he uses self-hypnosis. Simon, in what appears to be an awkward moment of disbelief or astonishment, asks “And you can hypnotize yourself ?” [emphasis mine] to which Piccard replies confidently, “Yes.” The whole interview is worth watching, but those wanting to skip ahead to the “good” parts should advance the video to 11:25 minutes. Could it be that Bob Simon believes, as many do, that hypnosis can only be something that one person does to another? And that the notion of hypnotizing yourself was unheard of up until that moment?  When, in fact, we all have a natural in-born ability to hypnotize ourselves—if only we learn to direct it consciously, as Dr. Piccard does.

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